Brings You Back
Sequel to "The Difference Between Him and You" so in case you haven't read it yet—it is a good idea (it follows similar formatting as well). THIS TOOK ME MANY, MANY DAYS. I didn't even plan out a continuation… and when I did, it was supposed to be a Nightwing!Damian/YJ!Dick smut fic. As you can see… that didn't happen. But it is still absolutely worth it. I fought with an ending… and I feel that this one gets across what needs to be. If I had gone any farther than I planned originally, it would have been an excess of fruitless story-telling. YJ!Dick's plotline is Pre-"Targets". And Damian's plotline is Pre-DC reboot!AU following Bruce's permanent death and Dick Grayson keeping the mantle (as in the first installment). There is a bit of Dick/Wally—and a surprise pairing as well. You are looking at a high T rating for graphic content, language, fluffy characterization, angst, and H/C. If you've got questions or comments… go ahead and share them with me. =D Enjoy~!
Disclaimer: Batman comics and YJ cartoon are not my property. But my hell-bent imagination is.
The wormhole vanished as quickly as it had appeared and left a human-sized, browning stain to the dirtied asphalt of Aparo Expressway, twenty minutes after Batman swooped in.
Through the entrance of the Manor's gymnasium, Alfred 'ahem-ed' to Robin hoisted onto a level handstand-stool, a longbow with notched arrow tucked between two of his toes.
"Master Dick, have you finished your schoolwork for the evening?"
Robin's — Dick's — lower half of his body contorted upwards into a reverse paunche as he steadied himself, fixated on the target range as the toes in his left foot drew back the bowstring in his right. "Mhm…" The fifteen-year-old said, licking a crawling bead of sweat above his upper lip, "I can do Precalculus in my sleep."
"I have not welcomed Master West at our doorstep in long over a month," Alfred observed. "I trust everything is well."
A breathless pause. The arrow released soundly, suctioning and quivering to the outermost yellow ring of the colorful FITA¹ target. A disappointed groan. "…crud! I think I'm getting worse, Alfie."
"I can only predict improvement with further practice, young sir."
Alfred's expression softened a moment with concern for him before severing when the earbud in Alfred's ear canal lit up. At invisible orders, the graying man raced towards the former Thomas Wayne's study, entering the override system codes and tuning the grandfather clock to open up the hatch for the Batcave. Dick followed after him wordlessly, the collection of sweat on the surface of his palms and pads of his fingers easing away any pole irritation with the long drop.
Bruce's armor-clad arms carried out a crumpled, bloodied mess of a man from the passenger seat of the Bat-mobile. Dick…could barely catch his breath at the sight, as Bruce and Alfred gathered together at the med-bay… had no idea when he had let go of the polished, silvered fire pole.
"Gra—" A gurgled protest from the man's dark red-smeared mouth. He started thrashing once set on the examination table, bumping a costumed, striped arm against a tray of medical instruments.
"Alfred, he needs to be sedated," Bruce gave the command, holding down that arm and ripping open the already wide gash to the black, triple-weave fabric, exposing naturally bronzed, scar-ridged skin.
Dick stared motionless, heart galloping to his ribcage, as the man with the azure blue logo against his chest wrapped his bleeding fingers to Bruce's gauntlet-wrist.
"…Wilkes n-needs hahhh…"
"Relax now, everything will be taken care of," Bruce maintained a less gravelly and Batman of a voice. Alfred returned into view from another table with a syringe, his crisp, white sleeves rolled up to his elbows. He quickly dabbed over a bulging vein to the man's exposed arm with a cotton swab of alcohol. The syringe punctured through skin; the seeping of relaxants stiffened the man's entire body until his facial muscles visibly loosened from tension.
His darkly-haired and matted head rolled back onto the metal, examination table with a weakened clang.
The heart monitor powered on. Stitches brought out immediately for the deep-looking gash on the man's hairline. As Alfred hooked him up to several, bagged IVs with expert timing, Bruce leaned over the prone form with narrowed eyelets to his cowl. He peeled away the man's winged eye-mask with a meticulous ease.
"Batman…?" Dick heard his own voice far off somewhere in the Batcave but swore he couldn't feel his lips move — swore that how strained it sounded in his ears… it couldn't be from him.
Bruce grunted, still leaning over the now fully unconscious body being stripped of the rest of his torn and charred costume. A multitude of countless, other fresh and older wounds over taut muscles.
"Robin… now is not the time."
"That's…" The teenager ignored the petulance from his guardian, too awestruck to laugh. "That's him, isn't it?" A time machine? Another hole punched in the universe? How did he even—?"
Bruce's voice darkened with real anger this time, chilling right down to Dick's bones.
"—Upstairs. NOW. That is a -direct- order."
The wiry carpet of the den room smelled distinctly of smoke, and of cooking, rubbery shoe-soles.
"He can't just push me out, you know?" Kid Flash— Wally— paced a little bit faster in his path, almost melting down the carpet's texture.
"We've been tight since we met, alright… When you add that up it's like… a four year bro-ship commitment right there. You can't just ignore something like that." He pried his hands out of his hair, gesturing them in front of himself, exasperated.
"And I get that he wants space, okay? I totally understand that. He's a Bat. He needs space. I'm not clingy. I'm so not clingy — but we haven't even talked about the freakin' elephant in the room! A kissing elephant! That happened, like, two years ago!" His hands threw themselves over his head. "I mean, yeah; you don't date your bro. You just don't. But we tried it and it seemed like it was going okay until he's too busy with class meetings and patrol — and he hasn't pulled that with me in a while. He talks even less during missions, you notice that, too?"
Wally jerked towards the single occupant on the couch situated with her knees pressed to her chest. The smell of burning was definitely getting worse as he got closer.
"You see what I'm getting at here?"
Artemis scratched the tip of her nose with a fingernail, her gray eyes firmly trained on her copy of "Robin Hood".
"That he's your convoluted and reluctant Boy Toy Wonder and you are a neurotic and grossly over-sharing mess?" she offered.
He let out a semi-war cry of frustration, flopping onto the couch pillows next to her.
Artemis's nose wrinkled slightly as Wally insisted, "It's not like I'm expecting him to be… you know…"
"A boyfriend?" She lifted her book to hide her shit-eating grin. "You and him might as well be a married couple with the bickering."
A withering look. As if he could see right there the book's cover to glimpse at her undisguised amusement.
"Not helping, Arty," he complained.
At his sour expression, Artemis sighed loudly. "I don't know why you are even telling me this. I know you two have been going out for a few months but, hell, you know I'm only going to give you shit."
"…I don't know why either," Wally admitted, hands going back for his hair, and the seventeen-year-old boy bent over his knees with a miserable air.
The archer lightly, stiffly patted his shoulder. "You're that desperate for answers?"
A low, discouraged mumble of 'maybe'.
"I can tell you one thing—as infuriatingly adorable as it may be to watch," Wally looked up, sliding his fingers over his cheeks and face; he frowned with a mixture of questioning and provocation when a smirking Artemis went back to her book, "You guys work. Friends or gay lovers, whatever. So do yourself a favor and be the one to pull him aside to talk out your problems. Someone has to do it."
"…Arty, you realize you just helped me, right?"
"I'm coming back to my senses."
He lay out like a corpse while he slept — not quite as sickly pale from the massive amounts of blood loss anymore. Alfred had mentioned that he was resting up now.
Probably shouldn't be in the guest room. Probably should be anywhere else in the Manor. But…
Dick's eyes wandered over a strong, handsome jaw line. The faint thinning of midnight-colored hair at the temples.
He… really could be… could he?
Without opening his eyes, the man whipped his arm out from his side, snatching painfully onto Dick's wrist hovering indecisively over him. "I'm up." ²
An icier pair of blue eyes met Dick's.
"So who is Wilkes?" Dick asked conversationally, as if he had not just hacked into this bedroom, and moved away as the man sat up; he rubbed that hand over a large bandage to his waist.
"My associate." His voice was deep.
The man shoved away blankets and examined himself, only slowing his actions when he discovered stitches to his head. "…How did I get here?" he asked.
"Batman and I were kind of hoping you'd know that answer." Dick's face broke into a pinched smile. "You are him. The other Robin." At the familiar scowl, he said gleefully, "Are you planning on making a habit of transdimensional visits? Because: Heads-up next time you wanna send a quarter of the city's population into a state of panic when, you know, they see this big, crackly universe-rip."
An older Damian scoffed at him — things really didn't change. "I have taken upon myself another title, Grayson: Nightwing. You would be wise to remember this." An eerily perceptive luster to those eyes. Insightful and baneful in a manner that Dick didn't care much for. "What is the present year?"
"Well… I'm pretty sure that two years doesn't make someone a grown man."
"The time streams in our universes have proven themselves vastly complex." Damian mumbled something else and then swore (—it didn't sound like Cantonese; it had a different rhythm, maybe Farsi?). Dick asked him to repeat it, his eyebrows furrowing as the man informed him, "Ten years." Dick's breathing hitched in. "It has been ten years since the last time I was in your reality. Now, if you are done treating this idly," Damian leaned towards him intently, his right hand pressed down to the waist-bandage, and his words edged steely, "How do you plan on returning me to mine?"
No one was amused, to say the least, about the current situation.
Dick couldn't be sure whether Superboy harbored odd territorial urges at times, or he really just didn't like Damian. Couldn't blame him when the kid — the man — tossed around insults more than Wally's usually empty flirts with M'gann, and clung onto the security of a mean streak the length of Gotham Bay.
And Wally wasn't helping anything by glaring.
"Will you just stop it already?" Dick hissed at him, "He's stuck here. Batman's orders."
The speedster crossed his arms grumpily, knocking his leg back against the stone wall from where they surveyed everyone in the foyer. "What's his story this time? The Condiment King³ did it?" Dick's mouth twitched up without his permission. Oh, now Wally wasn't playing fair at all. The memory of taking down the D-list villain in their early years guaranteed to lighten his mood; a favorite inside joke—
"Where did you hide my Wii, Speed Mouth?"
"Oh, noo, dude, the Condiment King did it. I'm innocent, I swear."
"Robs, why the hell did you duct tape my eyelids last night?"
"Well, if you had your eyes OPEN, man; you would have known that the Condiment King did it."
Dick caught himself giggling.
"You are such a dumbass, KF."
Wally elbowed him in the red-uniformed torso, arms still crossed. "You like that about me," he grinned, complacent.
"Uh, huh. Sure." A half annoyed eye-shrug behind the Robin mask. "There's gotta be a reason I keep coming back, right?"
Dick missed the sideways glance from his best friend; the serious weight to the forming sentence ("Rob, we-…") and instead concentrated on the outlines of Superboy's eyes pinned on the equally pissed Damian as they began turning a glowy, dangerous red.
"Hey!" Dick marched up between the two, voice even, "Hey, break it up, guys." He opted for not touching anyone for reassurance since neither were the touchy type. "This isn't a training simulator," Dick pointed out, looking back to Superboy's eyes as the heat vision tempered. "Even if it was, you don't need more reasons to knock the crap out of each other."
"Wally, can't it wait?"
M'gann floated into view, leveling herself to Damian's height and making a soft, excited squeal to herself, "You're taller now!"
"It's important since I've got you here for once—"
Dick tugged at his arm enclosed by the hands of a near pleading Wally, sighing. "I'll be a second, guEYEZZZZZZZ—!"
They vanished into a colorful and noisy whir into one of the hallways of the Cave.
Damian's upper lip curled and he continued to be silently irritated as the Martian girl clasped her hands out in front of her, beaming at him. "Would you like to help me bake? Oh~, it will be like before! Remember with the knives?" At this, Superboy inched his way to his teammate protectively. "Conner, you should join us!" she declared, smiling dulcetly, fondly in his direction.
Eventually, the man rubbed a finger underneath his darkly lens glasses and over an eyelid, growling.
"I had nearly forgotten how much I loathed being here."
Wally closed the second-floor bathroom door behind his companion, trying discreteness, as Dick perched up on the sink; his taki boots smacked the sink's underside. "Why here?" The speedster opened his mouth, and then shut it audibly.
"…No one will bother us in here," he mumbled, glancing away with a sort of lackadaisical head tilt.
A skeptical look. "Because it won't appear suspicious at all that there are two of us in one bathroom." Dick shook his head, adding, "Okay, seriously, why are you doing this right now?" He eyed Wally's features when they tightened with dread. "…or am I gonna have to guess?"
"This." Wally motioned the airspace between them, one of his burnt sneakers echoing a squeak against a ceramic floor tile. "Whatever this is going on with us."
"I'm not following," the other boy said, blankly.
"Look, Dick… I'm trying to be patient about this…"
A begrudging laugh. "Oh that's hilarious." The fierce nature of Dick's abrupt smile weakened his resolve… only for a moment. "I'll hear you out," Dick told him, "What do you want to happen exactly?" Wally's freckles darkened against his cheeks.
"I'll settle for a text message that isn't made up of less than three words," he snapped. Dick didn't flinch.
"You know I have the Robin gig… and my school… I can't always—"
The older teenager clenched his fists.
"—Don't." Wally said through his teeth grinding, "Just, don't." The green of his eyes flared. Contempt. "If you honestly don't wanna talk about the D-word then, fine… I can forget about that." Wally twisted up his mouth into an unpleasant smile. "But when did you decide for us to stop being friends too?"
Dick's throat contracted.
He pushed himself onto his feet, shoving around Wally's shoulder, and muttering, "Grow up already," before yanking at the jammed bathroom door and forcing it open with a broken clang.
Once he was alone, Wally jammed his fist into the mirror.
The cuts and gashes on his knuckles formed together effortlessly as liquid-red branched out visible, spider web-like cracks to glass.
An arm raise. The glinting, black projectile embedded with a faintly metallic sound to the laminated floor.
"I didn't know you had Batarangs too." Dick watched the older man tug it free, holding it to eye level for brief inspection and wiping it with the hem of his gray, borrowed hoodie. Squatting up on a balance beam with one of the Nightwing boots in his hands, Dick began his own inspection. "Knockout gas, signal flares, halogen flashlight, flex-cuffs, rebreather…" he hesitated, "…a fax machine?"
"Preparation is not a detail to be ignored."
"Gotcha," Dick conceded with him. "I'm concentrating more on gut instinct and timing more than anything else on patrol." He bent over with a hand steady on the cushioned beam, lowering the right boot safely onto the training mat to not trigger any hidden device. Dick picked up the twin, black Escrima sticks to test their shatter resistance by striking them on the metal pole exposed on the beam. "What age did you quit being Robin?" he questioned, keeping his attention on twirling the sticks in both of his hands with expert finesse. Almost as if they were meant for him.
Damian arranged several Batarangs into the available compartments, not glancing up at the now standing boy brushing aside his cape.
"I was eighteen years old," he informed him curtly.
"Ten years. And you're…" Dick counted it out in his head quickly. "…Twenty-three now?"
"That would be a fair assumption to make."
"Why call yourself 'Nightwing'? It's a cool name but…" He tucked the Escrima sticks together in one hand, staring over at Damian and tucking a leg under himself as the other stretched out to rest. A sort of expectancy hovered between them.
Damian's bare hands — riddled with various markings of nightly battle; clean, lineal, pale-colored scars on his fingertips — smoothed along the knees of his pants slacks.
Dick corrected him, tongue feeling too thick for his mouth, "You mean… your version."
And the look he received was not reassuring.
"There is a legend," the former Robin explained, "Superman knew the origin of a hero from his planet cast out, who had taken the duty to fight against scum."
"And he became Nightwing? The one you know?"
Damian's eyes, uncovered over the rims of his sunglasses, dulled. "It suited him at the time after Father had cast him out. I took his mantle as he took another."
"What mantle did he take?"
As soon as the words left his lips, milliseconds were left to him to dodge out of the path of a flying Batarang aimed for the line of his eyebrows, for Dick's gauntlet-fingers to snatch around it. He panted, white eyelets blown up in shock. Damian messed his own hand through his short, dark hair.
The scalloped contour of the Batarang flashed under the gymnasium lighting.
"Are you really that surprised, Grayson?"
Dick's shoulders gave way to a small quaver. His fingers promptly gripped onto the projectile, cutting into the gloved fabric.
"I never really expected to—"
"You are wrong," Damian cut him off, gruffly. "It came to pass as it was meant to."
Dick's voice harshened as the older man approached him, reaching for the disregarded Batarang, "Meant to? No one is meant to do anything."
He seemed to ignore that; Damian's fingers touched to his. A ridiculing leer. "I noticed that you and West are…"
"Tense?" the fifteen-year-old deadpanned.
"Inapt." Larger, bronze fingers worked skillfully around Dick's to extract the Batarang. "Do you really think someone like him can possibly understand what we sacrifice for necessity?"
Dick laughed bitterly, joyless, and bared his teeth. "Other Me won't put out for you or something?"
A pocket of hatred throbbing and building inside his chest — it built higher, higher as Damian wrestled him flat onto the thick width of the balance beam, and he knew he could probably disarm the attack from this position. No armored protection for the vital organs. Exposed pressure points. If-
"…Dick Grayson is dead."
His hands loosened, softened their grasp against Damian's neck.
"That is my world."
A restrained inhale from Damian. Restraining emotion. He spoke again, "Yours sustains itself with some degree of normalcy and fortitude." Dick flinched outwardly when Damian's hands on him flexed rigidly. He had always been stronger. "I have witnessed my Father's city take her very last breath. She has burned herself into putrid ruins and has dragged every soul with her. I have witnessed your blood and your entrails on the concrete; when your very life faded out of your eyes… that is when everything changed. The world I know thrives on the chaotic time bomb of an apocalypse." Damian spat venomously, and in a way mournfully, shifting away from the younger boy, "Being here mocks me; it tests me. It seeks my failure to act and in my resolve."
"Then why were you calling to him…?" Dick slid off the beam towards the training mats, to the older man's back, "…when Batman found you… thought it was him."
Damian's index finger tapped on the row of stitches along his head.
"Like a fool, I believed for a moment I was not dreaming. Or the possibility. If I truly am," he confessed, "I would prefer Jahannam."¹¹
The silvery-lit holographic image enlarged in size as Flash touched several fingers to it, making a simple twist of a wrist motion.
"Like I was saying before," he tapped against the image as the monitor room's glow bathed the two masculine figures in ethereal-yellow, "There's an energy field that exists in a number of infinite Earths. Therefore, it connects them together. It isn't a strong connection, not to ours anyway, but it seems to be possible to successfully opening another one through vibrational attunement."
Batman confirmed, "The meditational ritual."
"Yeah, that's the idea." Flash's cowl-eyes reflected back the shimmer of the field's light. "He's gonna need to prepare for it while I find what I need to make this work. Robin too."
Caped shoulders drew together, constructing. A distrustful inquiry. "Robin?"
"I'm going to need help. And he's the strongest association in our universe to this Nightwing guy," Flash pointed out. "Anything goes wrong, Robin's benched. I promise."
"Get to work then."
The speedster gave a quiet snicker as Batman strode out for HQ's beam tube. "Yes, boss."
Blinking the drowsy-haze from his eyes, Dick walked through another corridor, hoping that walking might tired him out somehow. He supposed everyone was already sleeping soundly in their bedrooms. Almost to spite his original thought, one of the bedroom doors peeked open to reveal a slim, long shadow emerging to greet him.
"Robin…?" M'gann murmured, gazing anxiously at him despite his untroubled, slow wave. "Is everything okay…?"
Not really feeling like explaining himself, he intentionally closed off any ties to the mental link with her. An oversized smile.
"Don't worry about it, Megan. Everything is…"
Dick trailed off, eyes narrowing with interest behind his designer, tinted shades as Artemis appeared from the depths of the bedroom. She hugged an arm around the alien girl's waist, stroking her fingers lightly over the candy-cane striped material of M'gann's thermal pajamas. A moment later, Superboy wearing blue jeans— only the jeans by the looks of it; was that bed-head or…?— appeared on M'gann's other side, cupping the back of her neck tenderly.
"Everything is fine," Dick finished, amused, keeping his eyes from Artemis's panties. "I know Kal's and RA's excuse, but is the rest of us invited?"
The archer blew a fake kiss with her middle finger.
"That's cute," she remarked, and Superboy rolled his eyes at Dick's cackle. "Why don't you take a picture? It'll last you longer." The bedroom door knocked closed with the slap of Artemis's hand, accompanied by a satisfied, male grunt and a muffled, insistent protest made by M'gann. Dick snorted, making his way to the elevators.
A press of the ground floor button. He shut his eyes and rested his head against a metal panel.
On the way down, the space behind his eyes and nose suddenly tingled, piercing—
—"It actually annoys me"—
—dark grass slippery bare feet fireflies illuminate faces Grayson—
—Grayson's face warm fireflies warm his smile—
—Dami do you Little D can you see them—
—"how similar you are"—
—dark slippery flying falling Grayson his blood—
—glistening pressure red over his icon his smile have to apply pressure—
Dick groaned noisily, clutching at his head. He stumbled out of the elevator, wincing. So strong.
The fragments of his most recent dreams gradually dissipated in their strength.
Inside the kitchen area, Damian glared at him accusingly through his own sunglasses, muscles in is jaw tight.
"Kindly remove yourself from my subconscious."
"I'm trying," Dick argued as he hunched over onto a cushioned-stool. "The exercises are working at least."
Another glare. "You aren't allowed near those memories."
"I heard you the first time, Damian."
"Tt-." The older man lifted the Tupperware seal of some leftovers sitting on the countertop, sniffing cautiously. "Everything still smells like ass here."
For a moment, Dick felt a faint smirk spread across his lips. "I think we should practice tonight," he suggested.
"What's the point?" Damian said, grumpily.
"So we can't screw up. Remember that we're trying to get you back," he reminded him as Damian pushed away the offending dish. "Flash is going to help too. But you have to visualize yourself back in your own reality, and I have to practice visualizing you leaving this one. I'm…" Dick hesitated. "He called it… being like a lightning rod."¹³
"You believe this ludicracy?"
"I'm saying, I've heard weirder solutions."
"Your reasoning is inaccurate," Damian told him, calculatingly as Dick frowned. "Lightning rods hold the capability to summon the dead to the present, not for the multi-universe dimensions to reopen. Even more rarely are people used as 'lightning rods' for a critical procedure such as this one. You have failed to consider a very important aspect…"
He stepped around the kitchen counter, towering over Dick, and leaned in slightly for Dick's ear. "You are the only person tethering me to this reality…" A heated, foreboding whisper — Damian's lips grazed over soft cartilage, leaving the younger boy's skin to crawl with goose bumps long after the morning peaked, "If you want this plan to work, you will find someone else to aid your endeavor."
The spectacle nearly took everyone's breath away.
Closest to it, Flash and Wally watched over the dimension opening, mesmerized, vibrating — behind them: Damian, Dick, and Batman — further: several Leaguers.
"Ready?" Flash asked, nodding to Damian who silently returned the gesture and stepped between the speedsters.
Energy sprang alive, volatile, quivering on the blocked off section of Aparo Expressway; it seeked out the transdimensional visitor, surrounding him.
Dick willed the nervousness in his system to settle, glancing at his best friend.
Wally avoided his eyes, the tips of his red hair gleaming gold, silver. Damian's perspiring face strained from concentration as the energy field's colors rapidly flared red to yellow to reddish gold. What appeared like hot white lightning shot around his body, crackling, buzzing. As everyone retreated from it growing, Dick came forward to run only to be grabbed around the middle.
"No, kid! Stop! You're gonna get yourself hurt!"
"I can still help!" Dick yelled at the floating Green Lantern, struggling, and broke the hold on him with a sharp jab into his abdomen. The energy greedily wound around him as he ran into it. The fifteen-year-old snatched onto Damian's fluttering, wool jacket collar and dug his teeth into his bottom lip until flesh split apart.
Damian's icier blue eyes locked onto him, unspoken, terrified.
"I'm still a lightning rod to someone, aren't I?" Dick murmured furtively under the buzzing, loud, louder in his ears, yanking the collar fisted in his hands towards him and sealing his bleeding, smiling mouth over Damian's.
An eruption of red light-silver-gold swallowed them up.
Batman's roar cut off with a BOOM! of the energy field, and then it blinking out of existence.
In place of it, what looked like the undisturbed road, and a lone, bowed figure.
A suspiciously yellow aura emitted from the costumed boy. Flash whispered, mouth agape, "Oh god…"
"What's happening to him?" Wally turned to his mentor, shouting, "FLASH!"
"The energy is still pulling at him. It needs to be drawn out of him before—" The elder speedster called out to him speeding out, "Don't-—!" and glowered at Batman blocking him, "What the hell?"
"Trust your partner, Flash," he said, simply.
"It's yours out there, too!"
Wally skidded on the asphalt a foot or so from the teen crumpled onto his knees, arms hanging useless. "Robin…" He rushed forward only to back off as light pulsed warningly. "Whoa…" Wally breathed, summoning up his own abilities to combat the yelloe aura, inch-by-inch. "Dick, man, come on. You gotta snap out of this."
"Do you hear it, Wals…?" Exposed, vibrantly blue eyes from the vanished eyelet looked around, unfocused, "Like…singing…" he mumbled.
"No, I don't. You have to stay here," Wally ordered, gnashing his teeth as he buzzed back against the almost-force field. It hurt. It hurt a lot.
"You can't let this stupid energy thing take you, okay? You've still got school and missions. Everyone's gonna be pissed if you don't-…" The corners of Wally's eyes behind his goggles stung. "I miss you, okay, and I don't know what your problem is but we can solve it. Just… don't leave me," his voice buckled — as did the resistance of the brutal energy fuming against his powers, absorbing out of Dick's body.
Wally's gloves — now a shimmering gold — went for Dick's shoulders as the younger boy's spine went limp under his own weight, head dangling backwards. Ohgodohgod.
A heart-pounding half a minute passed before Dick rolled his head back up, slowly blinking at the grinning speedster. "You…" Wally laughed and grabbed at Dick's face, smacking his dry lips to the crown of dark hair. "—…son of a bitch, I hate you!"
"Easy with him, kiddo; it's been a long day," Flash also grinned, walking alongside Superman and Batman. "Let's get this off you. Alright… your suit has the energy now. Be careful," he cautioned Wally, helping him with the removal of the uniform and shielding his half-naked form with an emergency blanket that he took gratefully when a few curious Leaguers eyed him. Batman undid the mechanism to his billowing cape, wrapping it securely around his ward and lifting him into his burly arms without complaint. He shushed him in low tones as the teenager gave a breathy, dazed whimper.
"Do you think it worked…?" Wally questioned his mentor fixing a sympathetic glance towards the pair.
"I hope so."²¹
The expressway in Gotham had been easily mended where the structure had taken minor damage. Barry and Jay had plans for a new Kid Flash costume.
All in all… everything had regained a sense of prevalence. Even the violent nature of the dreams grew less.
Dick didn't ask him to, couldn't ask him to, but Wally volunteered another night to keep him company in preparation for them.
He didn't question it.
Didn't question why there wasn't a sleeping bag.
Didn't question why Wally was the last person to fall asleep after Game Station or why he was right there, sounding groggy but soothing; instead of possibly getting mad about getting knocked around in his sleep or teasing him, Wally would calm him down after thrashing awake. Wally's arms… they felt good around him; Dick felt protected in them — it sounded so lame, and he didn't need it, but he liked it.
"This was different this time, not like Damian's memories; everyone got sucked in… I don't know…" Dick mumbled apologetically and tapped his forehead to Wally's collarbone. A freckled hand resting over Dick's t-shirt sleeve began to clench, drawing his attention.
"Why did you do it then?"
"I thought that…" Dick let out an incoherent grumble, shaking his head against the bed sheet. "At the time, I thought maybe I could bring the Other Me back… along with him. Maybe he could have ended up in that same time pocket with him." He snorted out a disillusioned laugh, hearing it echo above him from his companion. "Ahh—yeeeeah, it wasn't the smartest way to use my gut instinct."
"No, it really wasn't," Wally agreed, sitting up from lying on his left side and scratching at his neck momentarily as Dick scooted away, stretching his arms above him. "I thought I was gonna have a heart attack or something. You know how uncool that would have bee—?" Wally's hands and palms stilled flat to his pajama top as a clumsy, warm kiss swooped against his upper lip, mouthing a hurried 'sorry'. Wally returned it, opening Dick's mouth open a little with the tip of his tongue.
"You better be," he muttered. Dick leaned out, rubbing at his arm.
"No, I mean… I've been distant," he explained, "I wasn't very gruntled about the thought of us going out. There was a lot of dis in the gruntled."
The speedster made an exasperated face. "Oh my god, you never grew out of it." Wally scrubbed a hand over it. A familiar cackle. "You should have just said something about not dating, bro. We could have—" He found himself interrupted a second time that evening, this time being pushed gently back down onto Dick's mattress, said owner of the mattress smirking knowingly over him. Oh.
"You're missing the point, Wals." Dick's eyes raked over him intently.
"I am very gruntled right now. Very," he repeated softly, budging a leg deliberately over Wally's hip, "…very gruntled. How about it, Lighting Rod?"
Wally mimicked one of his cackles — eerily spot-on.
"Don't worry about it," he hooked his arms over Dick's neck, smugly, "I'm getting turbed." ²²
Gotham City, New Jersey
Everything seemed… taller. His clothes seemed bigger on him. Damian's wool jacket lay on his shoulders like a too-heavy cape, on his… smaller frame.
The night sky above him, dotted with faded stars and murky clouds, teemed with the scent of exhaust fumes from the city and ocean salt from the harbor. In the far distance, the Wayne Foundation tower stood vigilantly over others — not torn to utter ruin, no flames, no amount of choking, black smoke ghosting around the crumbling skyscrapers (…how this is happening). A slight wash of post-travel nausea struck him and Damian gulped it back, perplexed by the déjà vu. He removed the drooping, adult-sized sunglasses from the bridge of his nose to stomp them onto the dock.
His tongue licked warily at the smudge of blood coated on his mouth.
The subtlest of creaks to the shipping dock's platform; the impact made by soundless silicone boots. An uncowled man sprinted towards him, trailing behind him his dark, rippling, cape. (Another…) The breath he had been hold finally unclogged from Damian's throat. (…another chance…)
He stepped out of the massive, formal-wear shoes. The thirteen-year-old threw off Bruce's jacket and ran. He ran, feet cold from the exposure, gasping through the tightness in his chest as Grayson's arms enveloped him and reared him into a sturdy embrace. "Damian! Oh thank god!"
Damian's hands clutched agitated into the lightweight Bat-cape.
"Don't leave me again…"
At the white-lipped, childlike plea, Grayson started to rock them both and murmured comfortingly into his ear.
A gauntlet stroked through Damian's buzz-cut hair and paused over the stitches.
"…I'm not going anywhere, Little D." The corner of his smiling mouth pressed to Damian's temple. "Not without you, okay?"
¹ = International Archery Federation.
² = Damian's line and the situation vaguely references from Post-DC reboot Batman & Robin #1 (and the series itself comes highly recommended).
³ = "The Condiment King" is a DC Comic canon villain used often for a gag. First appeared in Batgirl Year One. He uses "condiment guns" but they can, unfortunately, cause anaphylactic shock.
¹¹ = Arabic word for "Hell".
¹² = During Infinite Crisis, it was discovered that the multitude of other Earths could be accessed though "vibrational attunement"—I took some elements of the real meditation practice combined with the theory of making this "energy field" or the Speed Force force itself into existence on Earth-16, and making a temporary but extremely unpredictable wormhole out of the Speed Force is also capable at times of time travel (this is good to remember, hint hint).
¹³ = From the "Lightning Saga" JLA/JSA crossover, Wally West had been resurrected with "lightning rods" placed in the locations where he and Barry had gotten their powers. In this version used on Earth-16, what is to be tested is if a person can be used as a form of a "lightning rod" to spark an event or likewise.
²¹ = Wally's costume became concentrated Speed Force energy in Flash #131.
²² = The definition for "gruntled" under the Cambridge Dictionaries Online is "happy or satisfied". "Turbed" for Robinspeak is "not showing emotional distress or illness".